Playroom November 2016

Hannah Conte and her mom, Sara, with the FLOTUS.

Kid to Know: The Executive Chef

Kale, the nutrient-rich leafy green that’s ubiquitous on Portland menus, proved to be more than a super food for 12-year-old Hannah Conte of Southwest Portland — it was her ticket to the White House and a visit with First Lady Michelle Obama. Last spring Hannah’s recipe for All Kale Caesar! salad was the Oregon winner of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge — part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. Conte’s recipe swaps in kale for the traditional Romaine lettuce, features croutons made from Dave’s Killer Bread and bulks up with protein-packed salmon. She visited the White House over the summer with her family for the Kids’ State Dinner, at which winning recipes were served.

“It was really cool and very surreal,” says Conte. “The decór was amazing — White House china (specially made for the Obamas), strawberry lights on the ceiling, carrots coming out of rain boots and a whole wall of fruits and veggies in between portraits of George and Martha Washington.” The winners were scheduled to take a tour of the White House gardens, but it had to be canceled. “We did not get to go on the garden tour because President Obama was pulling up in his car. It’s a high security house!” says Conte. “Since we had to miss the garden tour, Mrs. Obama let us meet the first dogs — Sunny and Bo.” Conte, who loves preparing and eating Italian food all of types, does admit she’s a bit over her famous salad: “I still love making it, I’m just a little tired of eating it.” — Denise Castañon


Wanna snag that recipe? Get it here.

We Recommend

The Fremont Theater. Kindie musician Johnny Keener, who played a regular gig at the Portland Children’s Museum for years, is part of the team behind this new concert venue hosting local kids’ entertainers, including Mo Phillips, Red Yarn and Penny’s Puppets — and nighttime concerts perfect for a date night. Check out their calendar at
Apps We Love: Operation Code

We can’t predict too much about the world our kids will inherit, but it seems like a safe bet that coding — giving computers instructions — is going to be around for a good long while. Here are our favorite apps for getting kids started on a coding bender.

Kodable Pro
The best choices for littler kids. This app introduces 4- and 5-year-olds to the basic building blocks of coding — “if this, then that” statements and “loops.” Kids can “level up” to learn about functions and debugging, too. Free for iPhone, Android.

Scratch, Jr
An offshoot of the powerful Scratch online programming tool for older kids, this storytelling app sneakily uses coding skills, letting kids drag and drop to command characters they’ve chosen. They’ll wind up with a personally programmed animated story. Free for iPhone, Android.


A series of themed puzzles that reinforce coding concepts. As kids progress through the app, they’ll unlock puzzles of increasing complexity. Often found in school and library settings, too. Free for iPhone, Android. — Julia Silverman


Take Five: Stephanie Campisi

We talked books with Portland author Stephanie Campisi, whose first kids’ book, The Ugly Dumpling, is a retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson classic tale The Ugly Duckling — but with a twist. She’ll be reading at this month’s Wordstock on November 5, 10 am-10:30 am at the Portland Art Museum’s Miller gallery.

Q: So, a story about a dumpling and … a cockroach? What was your inspiration?
A: The book is largely predicated on my love of puns, but beyond that the inspiration came from the roaring dumpling scene in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. The original idea was a closer retelling of The Ugly Duckling, but the cockroach suddenly popped up out of nowhere and took things into its own hands. I wanted the characters to have a bit more agency than Anderson’s original, to have them change the world a little rather than just reflect it, and I think the cockroach works well for that. I needed something maligned and unloved.play_room_-_take_5-1

Q: Are you working on a new book? Can you give us a hint of what it’s about?
A: My picture book Pebble Without a Cause, about a delinquent boulder, is out on submission at the moment, and I’m working on Grouch Potato, a picture book about a washed-up spud, and The Numbrella, a book for middle years’ readers. My predilection for puns continues!

Q: You’re presenting at Wordstock this year. Any authors you are excited to see there?
A: I am! Sherman Alexie is high on my to-see list, and Dan Santat, too.

Q: What were your favorite books when you were a kid?
A: I was a horribly voracious reader, and still am. Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth would definitely be high on my list. Aussie authors Victor Kelleher, Paul Jennings and Emily Rodda were also perennial favorites, and Enid Blyton prior to that. Blyton, perhaps in part because of her extraordinary output, was hugely popular when I was a kid, and I’m surprised that she’s relatively unknown over here. That said, she was writing in the 1930s, so there are definitely some problematic elements to her work that require discussion today.

Q: Do you have a favorite bookstore in Portland?
A: Like most of us, I’ve spent far too much time and money at Powell’s, and I also love ducking into curiosities like Mother Foucault’s. Book-lined cafés like The Rocking Frog and the delightful smattering of street-side Little Free Libraries throughout Portland also make for some impromptu bookish delight. D.C.


Getaway: Welches, Oregon

If you entertain thoughts of kicking all the clutter in your home to the curb and living a far simpler life, head to this wide spot in the road on the way to Mount Hood for a long weekend this month (It is, after all, no-school November, at least for public school students.)

Stay at the impossibly twee Tiny House Village (, which is like stepping into the set of an HGTV show. You can rent one of five wee homes, ranging in size from 175- to 260-square feet. Our pick for families is the “Scarlett” for $139 a night, which sleeps five people and has a bonus porch space. The tiny homes are part and parcel of the Mount Hood Village community, so staying there gets you access to the on-site clubhouse, seasonal outdoor pool and hot tub.

During the day, stop the kids from climbing the walls (literally) at the Wildwood Recreation Site, 1 mile west of Welches. Your kids can check out anadromous fish in their native habitat, and wind their way along 2 miles of trails with strategically placed artwork and interpretive signs. Or head toward nearby Sandy, where you’ll find the Rainbow Trout Farm, with stocked ponds that virtually guarantee your kids will make a catch ( For dinner, try out El Burro Loco, family-friendly Mexican right on highway 26, with an accessible, tasty menu. — J.S.


TOP 5 …kid-friendly happy hours

➊ At Hopworks Bikebar’s happy hour from 3 pm-6pm, get the kiddos a $3 slice of pizza and yourself a $3.75 pint of beer. 3947 N Williams Ave.
➋ Kids turn up their noses at everything but buttered noodles? Nonna has them covered. You might enjoy the grilled artichoke with aioli and $7 cocktails. 4pm-6 pm. 5513 NE 30th Ave.
➌ Sasquatch Brewing proudly plates up local food during weekday happy hour from 3pm-5pm and offers
$4 pints. 6440 SW Capitol Hwy.
➍ Bang Bang’s 5pm-6pm happy hour serves up booster seats for your toddler and delish, dairy- and gluten-free Thai. Order the chicken and prawn skewers. 4727 NE Fremont Ave.
➎ Let the littles snack on Bird+Bear’s happy hour Little Cub burger or arancini. Moms and Dads get $1 off adult beverages from 4pm-5pm.  2801 SE Holgate. — D.C.

Good Deeds: Shop and Rideplay_room_-_good_deeds_

The week before you tuck into a turkey feast, take the fam on a bike scavenger hunt through Portland to help homeless youth. Cranksgiving is a team event in which cyclists purchase a list of supplies from certain stores, which are then donated to Outside In — a nonprofit that provides housing, medical care, education, job training and more to teens living on the streets.

The 2016 hunt will include a shorter list, which is often easier for teams with kids to complete. Participants also have the chance to earn prizes — and bragging rights. Each year Portland Cranksgiving tries to bring out more riders than Seattle Cranksgiving. Gather your team and meet up Saturday, November 19 at Velo Cult (1969 NE 42nd Ave.) at 1 pm. Each participant should be prepared to buy about $10 of supplies to donate. Visit for more info. — D.C.

Gear Guide: Zine Scene

Looking for a gift that keeps on giving for the holiday season? Try getting your kiddo a magazine subscription to one of these fun picks. They’ll love getting mail. (And might learn something, too.)

We love this brand-new, modern mag, the brainchild of a former Condé Nast editor who raised nearly $175,000 on Kickstarter to get Kazoo off the ground. It’s packed with positive, never-patronizing articles, from profiles of rad female Olympians to great comics and step-by-step science projects. It’s aimed at girls, but boys will love it, too.

The gold standard. There’s something for every age here, from the gentle poems in Babybug to the layered fiction in Cricket. The illustrations are standouts, and these are great for sharing with friends, too.

Ranger Rick Cub
For the days when you can’t make it over to the Oregon Zoo, try this new offering from the National Wildlife Federation. Designed for ages
0 to 4, the mag includes simple stories and poems about animals and their habitat, as well as ideas for outdoor fun and early number and letter recognition games. — J.S.


Chalkboard: Rock the Vote

So, just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past, oh, two years or so, there’s a pretty big election this month. You may have already weighed in via vote-by-mail on everything from who should be the next U.S. president to whether or not outdoor school programs should receive money from the Oregon state lottery.

Another big issue to keep an eye on: The fight over whether to raise corporate taxes on companies with annual incomes that top $25 million. Proponents argue that it will mean more stable funding for schools and social programs; opponents say it could drive away employers and investment.

Nationally, pollsters place Oregon firmly in the Democratic column — meaning that Hillary Clinton has things sewn up around these parts. They’re probably right — up-to-date voting registration numbers from the Secretary of State’s office show that donkeys handily outnumber elephants around here. But don’t underestimate Oregon’s third-largest voting block — non-affiliated voters, who are harder to pin down. In the end, the election here will be decided in the Multnomah County suburbs, traditionally home to the greatest number of moderate swing voters. Wherever you live, get out there and vote (or, since this is Oregon, sit around your kitchen table and vote) — it really matters this year, for you and for your kids’ future, too. — J.S.

Playlist: Queen of Kindie

It’s been eight years since Laurie Berkner’s last album of new material, but for the preschool set, she’s still a big deal. (Your kids may already be fans if they’ve been to a Tallulah’s Daddy show recently — he covers the Berkner hits, “We Are the Dinosaurs” and “Rocketship Run.”) Now Berkner has a cheery new CD out titled Superhero, which showcases the kind of silly songs you might make up to entertain your own kids. The album is an instant classic. Standout tracks include “My My Marisol” (featuring Ziggy Marley), “This Is How I Do It,” “Juniper Square” and “The Music in Me.” And the club-kid dance remix of “We Are the Dinosaurs” is irresistibly fun. — D.C.

Ask Dr. Corey

Q: My 2-year-old son is an extremely picky and difficult eater — he has tantrums at almost every meal, often refusing to eat entirely. It’s been this way for months. I think it is beyond what’s normal. Should I try to get a referral to a specialist?

A: Great question! In my day-to-day practice, I bet I get more questions about picky eating than almost anything else. And why not? Along with water and shelter, food is considered a basic need for all people.

Because this basic need is so ingrained, it’s no surprise that a child who “doesn’t eat” can cause a certain amount of parental angst.

So what is picky eating anyway? Generally, “picky eating” includes several different behaviors, including refusal of new foods, refusal to eat previously accepted foods, or refusal of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Picky eating almost always arises in the second year of life and is incredibly common, affecting two-thirds or more of children.

As a pediatrician, part of the difficulty in giving advice around eating from an evidence-based perspective is that there is no universally accepted definition for what qualifies a child as a picky eater. Due to this variability it becomes hard to separate routine picky eating from more serious, though much less common, conditions like oral aversion or other sensory issues.

I start by reviewing the growth of the child with the family. If growth is on track, I usually advocate a division of labor approach. This approach puts the parent in charge of what is eaten and the child in charge of how much and when. If consistency is maintained, this approach usually works well, though it may include a certain amount of protest from the child.

Other evidence-based strategies that seem to help are to maintain an encouraging attitude, avoid arguments around food, and make repeated attempts (on eight to 10 separate occasions) with refused foods.

If, after trying these strategies, there are still concerns about the eating habits of your child, I would recommend a discussion with his doctor to see if additional investigation is warranted. 

drfishDr. Corey Fish, a Pacific Northwest native and graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine, is a pediatrician at Sellwood Medical Clinic. When he is not at work, he likes backcountry skiing with his wife and their border collie/Australian shepherd mix, and playing his guitar. For more info: Got a question for Dr. Corey? Get in touch at and we’ll pass it along.

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